The Three-Pointer: Houston Allows The Win

1. Mr. Negative I wish I could say I felt good about tonight's ending of the three-game losing streak with the victory over Houston, but the Rockets were horrible, missing a bevy of open jumpers and only mildly contested follow-ups in the paint. The counterpart to "moral victories" are "moral losses," and like the game they eked out over a wounded Indiana team, this felt like one of them.

Where do we begin? How about with Troy Hudson, the one out of four, count 'em four, point guards that Dwane Casey inexplicably chooses should be in the game at crunch time. What don't we know about Huddy by now? Guys routinely beat him off the dribble. He will either jack up a long jumper, feed to KG in the low block, and troll around the perimeter dribbling and then jack up a long jumper. Marko Jaric is deep in the doghouse now (or in trade purgatory a la Kandi?), getting shut out in just 12 minutes of play and joining Trenton Hassell in their simultaneous movement away from David Wesley to provide him with an open look that would have tied the game. Does Casey understand how badly that reflects upon him more than 40 games into the season? You had one possession that could have decided the game and your two defenders do the opposite of a double team and both move away from the shooter with the ball! Incredible.

Now that we've got a number two option that can create his own shot (very nice game Mr. Davis), why can't we let Anthony Carter sniff a little more crunch time? AC just might turn down 24-foot jumpers, stay with his man when he starts to dribble into the paint, and not follow his teammate away from the shooter on a make-or-break j.

It's way too early to start ripping but I did entitle this first point Mr. Negative and I do want to point out that if Mark Blount can't defend any better in the low block than what he showed tonight, it is going to be a very long, bang-your-head-against-the-arm-of-the-couch, four years. Worse, Casey used Blount's arrival as a pretext to put Eddie Griffin back on lockdown. Yes, I know Griffin was a putrid 1-9 from the field, but we keep hearing that Casey wants athletes and emphasizes defense. Then he plays Mark Blount over Eddie Griffin against the likes of Stromile Swift. The word for that is aggravating.

2.McCants on a tear. Rashad McCants outscored the Rockets, 16-15, in the second quarter. He did it from long range and from in close, in transition and in the half court. He was very efficient, finishing the night 8-10 from the field for 18 points, including two treys. He did not hog the ball, he defended less cluelessly than he has in weeks, and he really seemed to fit in. My second-guess is that he deserved more minutes in the second half, maybe a couple that Hudson wasted.

(BTW, has anyone else noticed the disturbing trend of the Wolves blowing second half leads and Troy Hudson playing extended second half minutes? Is it possible that one has something to do with the other?)

3.Kudos after all. Trenton Hassell did a fabulous job on Tracy McGrady and made all my "who will play the 3" hand-wringing seem silly, at least for one night. Kevin Garnett had 15 big 4th quarter points after getting a 5th foul on that pesky rook from Kentucky, Hayes, late in the 3rd. KG did miss a couple of FTs that could have been crucial, but that's a quibble in light of his marvelous 4th. One can't help but think the ability of Ricky Davis and McCants to rack up the points in the first half took some of the pressure off Garnett early and made him fresh enough to become ascendant late.

And once again, Ricky Davis really was a fine all around ballplayer tonight, still not quite the defender I fear everyone is touting him to be, but a guy who can post up, take his man off the dribble, jack up the long one, rebound, pass, fill the break, and give Garnett and sense that there's a partner on the wing who's ready to ride. Why all that only meant a 4-point win over a decimated Rockets team already in last place is disturbing, however.

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